Lifest 2009

lifest_bannerEarlier this month I attended – for the first time – a Christian music festival called “Lifest”. It is billed as a place to connect with family and God, reconnect with old friends, and to worship. It was all that and more. It is held at the fairgrounds in Oshkosh, WI in early July every year and it’s been held every year for 10 years. There are tens of thousands of attendees, scores of bands, seven (7) stages, over 6,000 people camping and requires 1,600 volunteers to execute. The word is overused, but it was awesome. [read more below]

lf_crossI volunteered to work in security during the event and worked (4) 4.5 hour shifts in exchange for a full event pass. Monetarily this is the lowest hourly wage I’ve worked for in over 25 years, but these shifts were the most rewarding I had worked in that amount of time as well. I saw people already full in the joy of the Lord as they approached the gates of the event and people greeting me warmly, even with my gruff exterior and “Security” shirt. I don’t know if you’ve attended secular concerts, but we (security personnel) are rather universally hated at these events.. tolerated, but not embraced. At Lifest however, we were all there for the same reason, to fellowship with other Christians and to worship an Almighty God! As I said, it was awesome.lf_crowd

I camped just outside the “Edge” stage where all the “edgy” bands played. I went to sleep every night to the hardest music I’ve listened to in many years, and loved it. “Red”, “Superchick”, and, “Disciple”… great slumber music, right!? I took the bike with a week’s worth of camping equipment, and loved every minute of it. I got more sun in one week than I may have ever gotten, and got rained on one night… a lot. Normally I’m not one that’s much for people, but – in general – the people here were a great group, of the same mind and all focused on God. We weren’t all the same, in fact we were all very different, but God isn’t glorified the most when we are the same and get along; God is the most glorified when people that are totally different one from the other are friendly and loving members of His family together. That happened here at Lifest 2009.

lf_bibleMy family came down and had a hotel for two nights in town. I was able to stand in a crowd of thousands and worship with each one of my three children individually, and with my wife. Standing and singing with a crowd for ten or twenty thousand to David Crowder was great, holding Kassie and singing to Phillips, Craig, and Dean in worship to our Lord was special, bouncing to Toby Mac with Liesel was fun (I think?),sitting with my wife during a Campolo talk was relaxing, and making shapes with the Rubik snake with R.J. filled some off time. I recommend this event to families for “together time”… make it one of your camping trips for the year; that’s what we’ll be doing next year. One note: If you are going to volunteer, do it together and on the same shifts (if possible).

So, you know it’s coming… what are we to learn from an event like this? I suggest that there are three things that an event like this can demonstrate and that we can learn from.

Christians are Individuals

lf_hairIt is an obvious statement that we are all different. Here’s the piece that we often miss as Christians; that’s a good thing! God made us different, has gifted us in various ways, and has called us to a wide array of places in His body, the church. Let me be painfully clear, because I can hear an Elder Board somewhere saying, “Well yes, but our walk will be parallel and much alike because we’re on a narrow path together, and… mutter mutter”.. our Christian walk can also vary widely and still be valid, effective, and sanctifying. Yes, you read me correctly… our walk can look different from another Christian’s and still be “valid”. Who are we to judge another’s walk!? (which is what Matthew 7:1 really means).. we are to bear one another’s burdens, to support one another, and yet not to judge. Yes, the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22) must be present in each Christian’s life, but too often we use that verse to overcome and subjugate the verse on judging so that we can feel justified in judging! People of God, STOP IT! We are each in enough difficulty with our own walk in faith to take the time and energy to judge another. Take what little spiritual strength you have remaining and look in the mirror, and then connect to God… stop looking out the window at others.

Worship Varies in Style

Ah yes, the Worship Wars.. the “Vietnam” of the church. The conflict we never should have been in that takes our focus off so many other critical things, that destroys Christian relationships, tears down local churches, and erodes our sense of history as a church. Folks far smarter than I have attempted to quantify – and then solve – this issue and have failed. It won’t be solved here, but I’ll still write about it! 🙂

Just as we each are different – radically so in some cases – in our walk, so are we different in our form of worship to the Lord. Now, many of us can believe that some distance away from our own personal style is “still valid” service to the Lord, but we all have that threshold, don’t we? That place where we say something like, “P.C.D. and Aaron Shust are where we all need to be, and I can believe that the Barlow Girls can be worshipped to, but Disciple and Kutless are just noise… no one can really worship to THAT”. Can’t they? Let me give you a piece of trivia from Lifest… I heard Disciple, and I heard their gospel message. I couldn’t help it because it permeated their performance. That “hard rock band” gave the most effective and heartfelt altar call of any of the 150 bands at Lifest. Worship happened, and it happened whether our frail human minds can wrap around it or not. God was glorified, and many youth came to Christ that night. Stop bleeding off energy that could be spent sanctifying yourself, serving the Lord, and serving His people by judging how other parts of the body of Christ worship. Ask the Lord if YOUR worship is effective and glorifying, and spend your energy worshipping the way He has called you to.

lf_worshippingI have a poster in my office at work… it’s very simple, I printed it myself. It has the Greek character “Delta” with a picture of a heart next to it. “Delta” is the Greek character that in physics is used to denote “change”… and God desires us not to worship externally, in form only; He desires heart change. All true worship demands a response from the Christian. Sometimes this begins with closed eyes, with hands raised to God, with jumping, and even with tongues, but this emotional 20-30 minutes isn’t where it ends, or even begins. We are recharged by worshipping in community, but we must understand that this short time should be an outpouring and sharing of a life of worship, of a life born of a changed heart. True worship demands a response in the life of the believer, indeed, that change… living for Christ IS worship.

Concentrate on the Core

Several times immediately prior to the event, and even at the event, I heard statements made about the theology of the people “in charge” of the event (as if it wasn’t the Lord that was in charge). Christians, remember a few paragraphs ago when I exhorted you to “stop it”? I’m saying it again. Do me a favor and grab a Bible… turn to 1 Cor 12, yes, the one right before the Love Chapter. Paul is speaking about gifts, and he’s talking about how each part of the body does something different, isn’t he? Well sure Ron, but you see, this chapter is focused on individuals and not on “denominations”… these verses cannot be applied to denominations in today’s Christianity. No? Hang out on verse 13 for a minute… yes, the whole “same spirit” spot, “..whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free..”, wow… large divisions of population, not individuals. It doesn’t get much different than “Jew” and “Greek”… and in case they missed that division, Paul went on to state that two totally opposed populations (slave and free) also were of the same Spirit. If the organizers of an event have the Gospel, are they not part of the body? Is it not better that people connect to them than no one?

As far as “essentials” go, I won’t take the space to write on those here, but suffice it to say that they are not as numerous in God’s eyes as they are in ours. The body of Christ, His church, is made up of all people that are saved, those that have accepted His gift of salvation, claimed the name, and have been indwelled by the Holy Spirit; full stop. Stop dividing the body with internecine battles; we are called to unity and we shall find it on the Gospel alone.

As you can see, I can get carried up in this pretty quickly, and this event really renewed my Spirit and vigor. I recommend it (and like events) to all Christians, especially families.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 at 7:08 and is filed under Faith, Family. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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